Marley historian shares message of peace

By Mary Vogel
Flapjack Chronicle

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Journalism student Tyler Bossio, a KRFH disc jockey, interviews Roger Steffens, a Bob Marley historian.

As some mainstream reggae in Jamaica turns violent, Bob Marley’s legendary band the Wailers, along with Marley historian Roger Steffens, came to HSU on Feb. 1 to promote Marley’s enduring message of peace and redemption.

Steffens is the owner of the largest collection of Marley paraphernalia and unreleased recordings. He is opening for the Wailers on their “Survival Revival Tour” and stopped by HSU’s student-run radio station, KRFH, to share some unreleased recordings with the staff.

“[Bob Marley’s] purpose was to spread the message of Rastafari; to elevate the human consciousness and to call us to be our better selves,” said Steffens. “He lived for others.”

Marley is undoubtedly the most successful reggae artist of all time.

“I’ve never been to any place where they didn’t know about Bob Marley,” said Steffens. “His songs have become anthems sung all over the world.”

Although Marley’s music might have many people believing Jamaica is a peaceful place, the country is ranked as one of the murder capitals of the world according to the Caribbean Media Corporation.

Jamaica has also been considered by Human Rights Watch as “the most homophobic place on earth.” Sexual intercourse between men is punishable by up to 10 years in jail, and members of the LGBT community are frequent targets of mob violence that often includes mutilation and gruesome execution.

Homophobic figures in reggae and dancehall music are prominent in Jamaica. Buju Banton is an artist who has repeatedly called for the “purification” of the nation and through his music explicitly encourages the murder of homosexuals.

Banton is not the only one. This kind of music is known as “Murder Music” and there is a campaign to stop artists like these from promoting hate violence.

In October of last year, Eureka’s Red Fox Tavern cancelled a performance by homophobic reggae artist Capleton due to protests from the gay community. HSU’s own radio station, KRFH, has joined the Stop Murder Music Campaign by not allowing homophobic music to be played at any time on the station.

“[The Wailers] have a very positive message,” said Center Arts director Roy Furshpan. “The student population does not support discriminatory music.”

“The mission of Center Arts is to provide students with entertainment they enjoy,” said Furshpan. “The students decide who we bring to the campus.”

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KRFH disc jockeys pose for a group shot with Steffens.

Dustin Fredricey, 26, studying engineering, said his mother introduced him to Marley’s music at a young age.

“Bob Marley stands for unity of all people regardless of race, color, or creed,” said Fredricey. “I cannot think of any connection between his music and [Murder Music].”

In the face of Murder Music defining mainstream reggae in Jamaica and beyond, Marley’s song of peace and freedom remain beacons of hope.

“As long as there are oppressed people on this planet,” said Steffens, “they will sing Bob’s song of redemption. His songs are immortal.”

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